How Buddhism Benefits Mental Health

By Laura Greenstein | Oct. 31, 2016

“Oṃ śhānti śhānti śhānti.” This mantra—meant to bring inner peace to those who chant it—is an example of the many connections between Buddhist teachings and mental health. Although Buddhism is primarily known as a spiritual tradition, it is also a lifestyle that encompasses the mind in almost all forms of practice. “Buddhism is known as the science of the mind,” clarified Jude Demers, a practicing Buddhist who lives with mental illness.

The practice of Buddhism puts the individual in the role of “scientist,” running experiments on their own mind to see what works for them. The idea is that through this process (known as mental training), a person can achieve inner peace. And according to Buddhist doctrine, happiness comes from inner peace.

Finding Inner Peace

The main form of mental training is meditation. Studies show that meditating has many mental health benefits such as reducing stress, anxiety and depression. It accomplishes this over time through teaching people to experience unproductive thoughts from a different perspective. Rather than letting a thought nag at someone’s state of mind, meditation teaches them to recognize that it is a thought with no benefit and then release it.

Meditation is accomplished in many ways—deep breathing, yoga, chanting—and its goal is to understand and control the mind in order to achieve enlightenment or nirvana. Nirvana is a mental state of peace and happiness; it is the highest state someone can achieve in Buddhism.

Making Connections

“Basic Buddhist teachings are about practicing kindness, humor and compassion towards other people,” Demers said. One of Buddhists’ primary principles is that there should be no agenda other than to help someone.

In Buddhism, all people are equal. “Buddhism gives a person a feeling like being a wave in the ocean rather than feel like one's life is an isolated phenomenon,” Buddhist expert Jason Henninger explained in an interview with Health Central. “A wave is a wave, but not separate from the rest of the ocean. Buddhism gives its practitioners a profound feeling of connectedness without loss of identity, and never in terms of superiority or inferiority to others.”

Being in Charge of Our Actions

Karma is an often-misunderstood Buddhist ideal. While most people see it as “what goes around comes around,” karma in Buddhism actually encompasses the idea that a person has the ability to change any circumstances they face in life. It is meant to be a doctrine of responsibility and empowerment. For a Buddhist, hope is a decision.

 

“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” - Buddha

Comments
Donald Trump
Tremendous. I will place this in my wall!
11/14/2017 10:19:48 AM

Donald Trump
Great Article! Absolutely fabulous!
11/14/2017 10:18:39 AM

Roxanne Reeves
More NFN!
4/8/2017 5:56:09 PM

Roxanne Reeves
More from NFN, please. Facebook, Tweets, Blogs. Time to make a difference. Advocacy needs you. 900 affiliates need you. Faith community needs you.
4/8/2017 5:55:29 PM

Carol Meier
Would love to see NAMI offer classes on meditation. People need to understand that you don't need to be a practicing Buddhist to meditate. It has endless benefits for those living with mental illness, as well as anyone else.
12/5/2016 7:17:23 PM

Ken
Really glad to see this topic addressed. As a long term practicing Buddhist, I'd like to make some suggestions. I think Hugh's point is well taken, though to me the orthodox Buddhist view of hope is a little extreme. Maybe something like - go ahead and hope but be ready to let go of it. Maybe for people in monastic life it is different.

The majority of Buddhists today are Mahayana Buddhists. This type of Buddhism stresses the Bodhisattva path more than nirvana; the vow of the bodhisattva is not to enter nirvana until all beings have been helped to do so.

I don't think of karma so much as a matter of intentionally changing things. To me it is more like the only thing I truly own are my actions and the results of all my actions echo forever. How they will play out is not possible to know, but still it is important to act as skillfully as possible to have beneficial or wholesome effects (tending toward wholeness).

From the mental health point of view, practice is a great teacher.
12/1/2016 10:00:44 AM

pam Bhatia
I and my son with bipolar disorder been practicing Nichiren Diashonin Buddhism for last 7 years. It had made lot of difference in my son's life. He is working and living his life as full. Please visit sgi-usa.org
Thanks
12/1/2016 6:27:57 AM

Denise
Great article
12/1/2016 5:39:04 AM

Denise
Great article!
12/1/2016 5:38:30 AM

Denise
Fascinating article on Buddhism and mental health
12/1/2016 5:37:20 AM

Matt
Please check out the Psychotic Buddha blog to find out more on this stuff: http://psychoticbuddha.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1
11/25/2016 9:54:46 AM

Susan
I need more info to understand and learn to practice
11/18/2016 2:15:14 PM

Joseph VanBuren
Nice article! I have used Buddhist techniques to improve the quality of my life. Mind over matter. Peace.
11/3/2016 12:15:54 PM

Lynne H Einig
Wonderful post. Thank you.
11/3/2016 1:07:45 AM

Hugh
Agree that Buddhist practices help. The last statement about hope is interesting, and reminds there are different perspectives. Pema addressed hopelessness as a way of embracing the present moment. If one gives up hope for things getting better, then things may unfold on their own accord. Anyhoo, here's a quote from Pema among others on topic of hope... namaste y'all :)
" As long as we’re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience down or liven it up or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot. In a nontheistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put 'Abandon Hope' on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like 'Everyday in everyway, I’m getting better and better.' We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment."
11/1/2016 4:39:36 PM

Jessica
Excellent short summary. Absolutely love the clarification on 'Karma'. This is a great reminder that so much of our healing begins with our thoughts and actions shifting.
11/1/2016 3:30:14 PM

Subscribe
 Security code